An ongoing discussion of how the comics provide prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the Star Trek episodes and films, soon to be a book from BearManor Media. Click here to view an archive of this article series.
139: StarTrekAnimted.com, 2002–2005
Let’s step away from IDW and venture back to the early 2000s. In a prior installment, I’d discussed how Star Trek: The Webcomic, from Mark Farinas and Ryan T. Riddle, provided prequels, sequels, and tie-ins to the episodes and films. While unlicensed, that series had merited discussion here due to its longevity and professional quality. As it happens, that wasn’t the first online Trek comic series, for predating it was an enjoyable enterprise titled Star Trek: The Animated Series Comics—and it belongs here, too.
In 2002, Kail Tescar launched an unlicensed comic line at startrekanimated.com, initially under the KL Comix brand. The sixteen comics posted there—some from Tescar, others from different creators—are likewise noteworthy due to their high quality, not to mention that they’re among the few comics ever to focus on the 1970s Star Trek cartoon. No new chapters have been posted since 2016 due to a computer crash, but the stories produced remain archived and are well worth reading. This week, we’ll examine issues #1–7 and “special” issue #1.
Issue #6 and the special were crafted in cooperation with Jimm and Joshua Johnson, producers of the Starship Exeter fan films. Charles Kelso co-wrote most storylines, though Colin Moore scripted and drew the special, and Kenneth Gleim co-wrote issue #7. Tescar provided the majority of the artwork, while Raul Quiles, Jr., supplied CGI space shots and Masao Okazaki created character designs for a few new aliens.
The comic opened with a straightforward retelling of the fan-favorite episode “Yesteryear,” in which Spock, having altered his own history, traveled back to his childhood via the Guardian of Forever to prevent himself from dying during the kahs-wan test.Tescar faithfully adapted D.C. Fontana’s episode script, so there’s not much new to discuss.
The first original tale appeared in issue #2, “Nature to Eternity,” in which the disembodied mind of a Romulan lost during the Earth-Romulan War (“Balance of Terror”) warns James Kirk about a surviving superweapon from the conflict on Devron Prime, deep within the Neutral Zone. Fans of The Next Generation might recognize that name, for in “All Good Things…,” an anti-time eruption in the Devron System, caused by tachyon pulses in three time periods, had created tension with the Romulans.
With Kirk’s help, the spirit convinces a vengeful Romulan not to start a second war in his grief. First, though, the consciousness struggles to contact Jim’s mind via visions of his past adventures, including encounters with the Gorn and Nomad (“Arena” and “The Changeling”), his near-death entrapment in interspace (“The Tholian Web”), his besting of an alien entity and Captain Koloth (“Beyond the Farthest Star” and “More Tribbles, More Troubles”), and his trial under Megan prosecutor Asmodeus (“The Magicks of Megas-tu”).
Practically every panel brings a new homage to the 1960s and ‘70s shows. But perhaps the most enjoyable moment involves Pavel Chekov, a character sadly missing from The Animated Series for budgetary reasons. Multiple licensed stories have explained his absence by indicating he’d pursued security training following The Original Series’ third season, neatly tying into his role as a weapons officer in The Motion Picture and as a security chief in The Undiscovered Country. Tescar follows that trend, and it’s glorious to see Chekov drawn in the 1970s animated style.
The Kzinti return in issue 3, “Tigers of Heaven,” the first sequel to Larry Niven’s “The Slaver Weapon” since the L.A. Times Syndicate’s daily strips, published four decades prior. Spock’s father Sarek chairs a board of inquiry when the Orion black market (“The Pirates of Orion”) sells weapons to the Kzinti. A Vendorian shapeshifter (introduced in “The Survivor,” and more recently featured in Lower Decks “Envoys” and “Caves”) helps the Orions incite an Earth-Kzin war, but Kirk convinces the Kzinti to avoid battle.
This, by the way, is the same Vendorian who’d posed as Carter Winston in “The Survivor” before being carted off to prison by Anne Nored, which is kind of sad since it means he didn’t truly redeem. What’s more, the Kzinti are the same ones from “The Slaver Weapon,” with Kirk at last meeting Chuft Captain and Telepath, who’d only faced Spock, Nyota Uhura, and Hikaru Sulu in the episode. This time, the felinoids become Kirk’s sort-of allies, as Telepath sees through the ruse and exposes the shapeshifter.
Another returning Animated Series character is Demos, the head of Dramia’s security forces (“Albatross”), who serves on the board of inquiry and is reunited with his friend and former prisoner, Leonard McCoy. Demos proves less than impressive as a security chief, for the Vendorian tricks him into abducting a Kzinti official by posing as a Section 31 operative and claiming the abduction is Federation-sanctioned. The Dramian’s naïveté in blindly accepting the Vendorian’s claims nearly triggers a galactic war.
The best of this batch is arguably the fourth chapter, “To Dance with the Devil,” a sequel not only to “Day of the Dove” but also to “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and other episodes. After Klingon spies learn what happened to Gary Mitchell, the Empire orders Commander Kang’s ship to enter the galactic barrier to test its effects, with the goal of breeding super-warriors. Mara is chosen as a test subject due to her high Esper capability, something not hinted at on TV, but consistent with the fact that she was the first Klingon to see past the entity’s mental trickery in “Day of the Dove.”
If this setup sounds familiar, it’s because DC Comics published a similar story utilizing Romulans rather than Klingons, and that tale even had a character’s beloved—Saavik’s fiancé Xon—facing peril due to the barrier’s effects. Like Mitchell, Mara goes insane with power. She slaughters Kang’s crew, commandeers his vessel, and leaves him with only a shuttle. He pursues her to Federation space, vowing to destroy the monster she’s become, but McCoy thankfully restores her brain to normalcy. The comic also recalls Marvel’s Star Trek #12, in which Janice Rand’s fiancé was similarly driven insane by the galactic barrier. The takeaway? Keep your lovers away from the galactic barrier.
Issue 5’s “The Heads of the Hydrae” brings back Joanna McCoy, the doctor’s estranged daughter. After completing her studies on Cerberus (cited in “The Survivor”), Joanna is said to have joined the Federation Relief Works, then was assigned to an expedition on Lambda Hydrae IV. There, she married Margus Wintros, who dies in this story when terrorists attack a cargo ship, leaving her a widow—and a pregnant one, at that. That’s right, Bones is going to be a grandfather.
Joanna has had some bad luck when it comes to marriage. Terrible luck, in fact. In Marvel’s Star Trek #13, her Vulcan fiancé, Suvak, died while saving her life after suffering from choriocytosis. Marvel’s Star Trek: Untold Voyages then indicated she’d just halted another engagement. With Margus added to the mix, Joanna has now had a husband and a fiancé die, and she’s lost another fiancé to a breakup—all at a very young age. The takeaway? Keep Joanna away from dating apps.
The issue also connects to The Next Generation’s “The Defector,” as Kirk encounters a young Alidar Jarok, an ambitious Romulan centurion who has armed Kalifi terrorists to become the planet’s ruling governor. Kirk urges the Romulan to embrace peace instead of war, and while the captain fails to get through to him fully, their discussion sets the stage for Jarok to later betray the Empire during Picard’s era, in an effort to prevent his people from invading the Federation.
M’Ress takes center stage in “Home Is Not a Place,” in which the communications officer recalls a mission aboard the USS Exeter, sometime after the Cestus III attack, when that ship mediated a dispute resulting in the Gorn Hegemony (“Arena”) blockading her world. On that mission, M’Ress had exposed a Gorn plot to poison the atmosphere by dumping engine waste into Cait’s sun. That might seem like a rather un-Gorn-like plot in light of Strange New Worlds’ Xenomorph-like revamping of the species, but keep in mind that this story hit the Web during Star Trek: Enterprise’s third season. These Gorn are more like those from “Arena” and “The Time Trap” than the modern-day lizards.
The comic guest-stars the cast of Starship Exeter, including Captain John Quincy Garrovick of the USS Exeter, said to be a cousin of the Enterprise’s Ensign Stephen Garrovick and a nephew of the ensign’s father, Captain Anthony Garrovick. There seems to have been confusion on the filmmakers’ part, though, as the ensign was David on TV (The Original Series’ “Obsession” and Prodigy’s “All the World’s a Stage”), while Stephen was among multiple names assigned to his father in licensed sources. Oops.
The “special” issue is “For Death or Glory,” and the villain is disgraced ex-captain Ronald Tracey (“The Omega Glory”), who plots to incite a Romulan-Federation war. Unstable despite his rehabilitation, Tracey has partnered with Orion dilithium pirates, hoping the war will drive up the value of their ore. This is right on the heels of the Orions’ attempt to incite a Kzinti-Federation war, mind you. Perhaps the pirates should stop inciting wars. They apparently aren’t good at it.
Kirk intercedes and sends Tracey back to rehab. Regrettably, the facility is not specified as being the Tantalus Penal Colony (“Dagger of the Mind”) under Doctor Simon Van Gelder, which seems like a missed opportunity. If it had been, the artists could have drawn actor Morgan Woodward treating… himself!
Two other episode tie-ins are worth noting for issue #6 and the special. The first pertains to “The Terratin Incident,” as the Romulans attack the SS Washington, a Bonaventure-class starship commissioned in Starfleet’s early days, and Scotty recalls having toured the Bonaventure while trapped at Elysia. The other retroactively connects back to Strange New Worlds, as Commander Paul Cutty is said to have served aboard the USS Kongō. In the episode “Memento Mori,” Spock wore a Kongō pin on Starfleet Remembrance Day, indicating he’d served aboard that vessel as well.
Finally, issue #7’s “Like Father, Like Son” flashes back to Jim Kirk’s early career, when he and his dad enjoyed a fishing trip only to become embroiled in a charged political dispute. George serves in Starfleet security, having sacrificed career advancement to have time with his family, and he’s ordered to help an alien government capture escaped inmates. The two Kirks realize the escapees are oppressed victims, however, and instead protect them. The implication is clear: Jim learned valuable lessons from his father—not only his love for the outdoors, but also his strong sense of justice.
George Sr.’s Kelvin counterpart debuted in the 2009 Star Trek film. Vonda N. McIntyre’s novel Enterprise: The First Adventure established his name, after which other books featured George as well, including Diane Carey’s Final Frontier and Best Destiny, and David R. George III’s Crucible trilogy. Gold Key’s Enterprise Logs had dubbed him Benjamin, while Star Trek II: Biographies used the name Eugene Claudius. It’s almost a shame George became the accepted name, when the fantastic Eugene Claudius was on the table!
Star Trek: The Animated Series Comics might be unlicensed, and George’s career vector might diverge somewhat from that shown in Carey’s novels, but Tescar lends the man a noble characterization consistent with all other depictions of Jim’s heroic parent. Next time, we’ll wrap up our discussion of this online series, after which we’ll jump into IDW’s pandemic-era epic, Star Trek: Year Five—also featuring The Animated Series’ Arex and M’Ress. That title brimmed with sequels, prequels, and tie-ins, which is what this column is all about. See you then.
Looking for more information about Star Trek comics? Check out these resources:
- My ongoing column for Titan Books’ Star Trek Explorer magazine
- The Complete Star Trek Comics Index, curated by yours truly
- The Star Trek Comics Checklist, by Mark Martinez
- The Wixiban Star Trek Collectables Portal, by Colin Merry
- New Life and New Civilizations: Exploring Star Trek Comics, by Joseph F. Berenato (Sequart, 2014)
- Star Trek: A Comics History, by Alan J. Porter (Hermes Press, 2009)
- The Star Trek Comics Weekly page on Facebook
Rich Handley has written, co-written, co-edited, or contributed to dozens of books, both fiction and non-fiction, about Planet of the Apes, Watchmen, Back to the Future, Star Trek, Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Hellblazer, Swamp Thing, Stargate, Dark Shadows, The X-Files, Twin Peaks, Red Dwarf, Blade Runner, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Batman, the Joker, classic monsters, and more. He has also been a magazine writer and editor for nearly three decades. Rich edited Eaglemoss’s Star Trek Graphic Novel Collection, and he currently writes articles for Titan’s Star Trek Explorer magazine, as well as books for an as-yet-unannounced role-playing game. Learn more about Rich and his work at richhandley.com.